HEALTH & WELLBEING: Is it possible to tan safely?

Jo Esdale of Essential Well-Being
Jo Esdale of Essential Well-Being
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The sun omits ultraviolet radiation in three wavelengths, UVA long waves, UVB short waves and UVC shorter waves, which are absorbed by the ozone layer.

These waves are responsible for sun photo light damage to the skin and eyes and for suppressing the immune system.

When our skin is exposed to sunlight it naturally 
defends itself from harm by producing melanin, a brown pigment which darkens the skin and forms our suntans.

Many of us in the UK feel more confident about our bodies when we have a tan, however, sun exposure results in a process called photo aging which manifests in a variety of way from skin cancers, increased pigmentation and general skin aging.

We tend to only apply high sun protection factor (SPF) sun screen when we go abroad for our holidays but we should be applying SPF to our faces, neck, chest, ears and forearms daily if we are outside.

Damage to the skin by the sun does not just happen during the summer months, UV rays can penetrate into ours skin all year round, even through glass and on cloudy days. Roughly 90 per cent of photo damage can be prevented by daily use of SPF sun screen.

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for sun protection factor, which theoretically, indicates how long it will take for UVB to burn the skin. For example, SP30 
allows you to stay in the sun 30 times longer without burning than you would if you wore no SPF.

UVB is associated with sunburn and applying sun protection. However, protection from UVA is imperative as UVA rays penetrate the skin at a deeper level and are responsible for long term damage. When buying your sun protection products make sure they are labelled ‘broad spectrum’. This means it contains ingredients to protect you from both UVA and UVB.

Chemical versus physical SPF: Chemical SPF absorbs the sun’s rays and turns the UV light energy into heat, these can be responsible for skin sensitivity and prickly heat. Physical SPF are mineral based ingredients which bounce the UV rays off the skin and are more suited to sensitive skins.

Tips for application:

• Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure.

• Reapply frequently, 
approximately every two hours.

• Apply a minimum of an ounce of SPF for the whole body.